Is the thought of improving, redesigning or just maintaining your website weighing on you?
With all the elements to consider, it can be overwhelming. However, following a clear and organized strategy will greatly help you complete these tasks. Below are 5 strategies that will help you meet your goals of having and maintaining a great website:
State Your Goals and Identify User Paths
First things first, decide and write down what your goals for your website are. What are the primary things you want from your website? For example: for ecommerce sites, most people might say their top goal is to generate sales.
Now, identify just a few things you want visitors to do on your site that will lead them to your ultimate goal of generating more sales. Continuing with our example: you will want a visitor to make a purchase and successfully check out, but another thing you may want a visitor to accomplish while on your site, that will ultimately lead to future sales, is to join your mailing list. Always with the visitors coming to your site in mind, identify and draw out all the steps those visitors need to go through to arrive where you want them to. (the check out and the mailing list sign-up form)
In our example, the steps a person takes to arrive at the checkout may look like this:
- They typed in some keywords into Google to search for something they think they need
- They are led to a product page on your website
- They choose their personal requirements to filter out unnecessary information and find information on a product that will work for them
- They read testimonials about the product they are interested in
- They look at the About Us page and the Contact Us page to learn more about your company
- They choose a few items from the product pages and click add to cart
- They check the shipping page to see how much shipping will cost and how long it will take
- They join your mailing list for the discount they get for a first-time purchase
- They continue to the checkout and complete a purchase
Putting yourself in the user’s shoes, allows you to see your website from the customers perspective. Now, you will be able to add notes next to the areas you identified in the pathway as an issue that you might find frustrating as a visitor to your site. Later, those issues will be easy to find and fix.
Organize the Structure of Your Website
Now that you have addressed the steps a user takes to arrive where you want them to, it’s time to use those steps as a guide and draw out a plan for the structure of your site. This step will provide you with guidance on constructing a thoughtful, comprehensive and balanced website.
Pages to consider when organizing the structure of your website are:
- Home Page: You only have seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. Make sure to wow your visitors with eye-catching visuals and a short, to-the-point, list of your services and product types.
- Products and Services: What products and services do you have? give each product or service its own dedicated page.
- About Us: This is your opportunity to directly answer what a visitor wants to know; essentially, who are you and what makes your company unique?
- Comparison Page: These are helpful if you have a large inventory of similar products and they can help a visitor make a decision and proceed to the checkout.
- Photo Gallery or Portfolio: Visuals are a fantastic way of persuading visitors to become buying customers.
- Testimonials: Testimonials help build trust with customers and help them in their decision making.
- Self-identification pages: These are pages that users arrive at after being able to filter out information they don’t need. They receive information unique to their situation; each identified situation, which your site has products or services for, should have its own page. An example would be if you have a skincare company and a user is able to filter out and make selections which leads them to a page only with information and products for mature, dry skin, or acne prone, teenage skin. This helps users get right to the products they need.
- Blog: This is your opportunity to capture first time visitors who need more information before they commit to buy; they have happened upon your site while doing research for something they might want. It is also your opportunity to supply these customers and returning customers with educational information and news related to your industry.
- Contact Us: Contact information, including a physical address and telephone number, build trust with potential customers visiting your site. This page is also a good place to list your social media links such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
- Terms and Conditions: And Return Policy if you have an ecommerce site.
- Shipping: If you have products, people will go to this page before they go to check out to make sure they can get a product when they need it.
Of course, there are many pages you may need for your unique company. The ones listed above are some of the most common. They are extremely important to nearly every website and visitors expect to see them on a website.
Select Essential Content for Your Pages
Now that you have determined which pages you will have, let’s talk about how to choose essential content to have on those pages.
With your visitors in mind, and the steps you identified that they will take, you want the content they receive on each page to provide them with the information they need to move onto the next step in their path to, (continuing with our example), the checkout. Ask yourself:
- Does this page give the user what they need to move onto the next page?
- Is the user able to arrive at the next page quickly and easily?
- Is it clear to the user how to get to the next step?
- What page do I want the user to see next?
The information, at each step, should be a logical progression with the final result being a great user experience that generates a sale.
For the purposes of having a strategy guide to follow, writing down simple notes next to the pages you determined you needed, will help you write and expand on the essential content for your pages. Keeping notes about content in the order that a user would likely encounter it helps you stay organized and focused on what is essential.
Say Yes to Videos and Photos
Determine what your budget will be for video and photos and decide on which pages your photos and videos will go on.
Product Pages should have great professional photographs with multiple shots of each product. Using zoom features will help your customer make sound decisions and they will be grateful for the added help and ease of navigation your website offers. The addition of people from your company can help make the About Us page welcoming and personal. Photos that give additional information when hovered over, allows visitors to get instant information without changing pages.
Videos boost your rating on Google and are a must for websites. Short “how to” videos can really help a customer make a decision and offers additional educational information. Just make sure you use a third party to host your video, like YouTube, don’t load videos on your server.
These are the pages visitors coming to your website will spend the most time on, so don’t skimp on your photo and video budget!
Have a plan for Technical Setup and Website Launch
Pinpoint any functionality your website needs by reviewing the structure of your website and the user paths you identified above. This will also help you choose a CMS (Content Management System) that works best for your needs.
Technical elements to think about:
- Optimized code for fast page loading
- Cross-browser compatibility
- Google Search Console integration
- Google Analytics
- Support for e-commerce
- Adding plugins to expand or modify functionality.
- Interactive functionality (e.g. zoom and hover for photos, clickable maps, self- identification tools)
- Forms and contact collection
- Mobile friendliness
- Subscription and email follow-up
- Video hosting platforms
- Database functionality
The Strategy you use to build your website is interwoven with the technology you need to support it. Make sure you have the information you need so you can decide on the right technology for your website.
If you need to recruit some technical help, make sure they are also available on launch day to handle last minute hick-ups. Schedule time and date ahead of time!
On a final note, remember to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes when making choices for your website.
It takes a lot of work to put together a good website. All the technical elements; software, plugins, themes and hosting combine with all your creative content, images and texts, to make the website of your dreams. Maintaining it will be an ongoing process, but having a good strategy, will make your job a lot easier!